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So I'm the newest owner of a 1990 bronco xlt. I have never done any trail riding or built/rebuilt any vehicles. I know for a fact that the previous owner swap the engine with a 5.0 and that's about all I really know about the specs on it, but I believe everything else is stock. I want to make this truck into one that I can go trail riding in or even take out to the desert. My only problem is that I don't really know where to start. I'm just asking for advice in the direction to go with this, where to get certain parts, and even help with part brands to use on it. Thanks to anyone and everyone in advance for the help.
 

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First, welcome to the site. There's a lot of info on here.

Second, make sure it runs good and you can trust it to go where you want to go.

Third, find a legal place to go trail riding, take a buddy, and go. You'd be surprised what you can do in stock form. If you're going to the desert, make sure to take plenty of water. If you break down, you may have to wait for help.

Fourth, from these trips that you took, you will know exactly what you need to do your truck for your conditions. Everyone's needs are different. Once you determine what kind of mods you will want, you'll be able to look on this site to find out how to do them. I haven't wrote any how to articles just because I haven't been able to find anything I've done that someone else hasn't already wrote about.
 

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I've seen these trucks have quite a bit of fun rolling stock; that being said...

Kinda depends on how hardcore you want to go, if it's a weekend trip to a mountain campground, or out on a rocky desert road you would do well with a modest lift (4-6") with 33-35" tires of the all-terrain variety, and gear down a step or two. That will give you some good potential without requiring alot more expensive mods. If you want a seriously capable wheeler you're looking at stuff like differential lockers, transmission cooler, solid axle swap, and roll cage installs and the list goes on and on.

Giving your hub locks some TLC or swapping them out for manuals if they aren't already is a good investment of time and really not too expensive.

There's half a dozen (or more) respected brands for any of the modest upgrades I listed. They shouldn't be hard to find and you can make your own decision.
 

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Welcome.

Agree with above post. Get the Bronco reliable. Drive it to where you want to go. Meet people doing what you want to be doing and learn from their experiences. Find a 4x4 shop and get to know them.

Spend some time reading the tech articles, especially the tire and gear ratio chart. Lifting the Bronco, gets you bigger tires which may require different gears. Order catalogs, Jeffs Bronco Graveyard and LM Truck come to mind. Buy a manual. Inventory your tools.
 

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ALways bring a buddy in another vehicle when you go riding.

Let someone else go thru an unknown obstacle first.

Get the truck running as good as possible. Make sure you have a transmission cooler. It will get hot off road.

Other than that. drive it till it quits.
 

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Eric
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I'm on board with what everyone else said. Just drive the truck around for a couple months. The needed repairs and upgrades will reveal themselves. When something breaks, fix it. When you find something that would be handy in a recurring situation, make plans to add that particular part or feature to your truck.

***GET A HAYNES MANUAL!!!***

1.) Drive it around. This was the best advice I ever received when I, first, started with cars.

2.) Research. You can't decide what you want/need until you learn what's available. Google is your friend. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Look at lots of them. Learn about your truck, inside and out. Learn how an engine works. Learn how a transmission shifts gears. Learn how a transfer case engages. Learn how a rear axle pinion tracks on the ring gear. Learn how to troubleshoot electrical problems. Learn how to use tools, spray paint, install a lift kit, driving tips and tricks for different off-road scenarios... everything you can. Be "Captain Bad-Ass" when it comes to your knowledge base.

3.) Try. Don't ever, simply, give up on working on your own stuff. You might say to yourself, "I've never done that before." When this happens, see #2, then, do #3. Repeat as necessary. Nobody has ever done something "before", until they've done it for the very first time. Chalk up any failures to the price paid for learning a new skill. An education is expensive no matter the school; be it college or life and getting an award "just for showing up" is crap. Put some effort in. Stand back and be proud of yourself for the right reason. It feels good to say, "I did that... and it's frggin' sweet!"

4.) Have fun. This applies in conjunction with all the above. :thumbup

Just my $0.02,
Eric
 

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I started with a stock '88 Bronco and took it wheeling almost immediately so here is my observations/lessons learned. Hopefully some of this will help you get started on your build.

First off I'll say a stock Bronco is very capable as others have said. You'll be able to do the easier trails with minimal issues. The more complicated trails you'll need some modifications. Beyond that (rock crawling and serious mudding) you're talking about a purpose built vehicle and some serious $$$.

As stated, make sure everything is in working order.

For me the upgrade/maintenance path so far as been ...
- new transfer case and driveshaft (same transfer case model different year required a different flange)
- 33" tires to get some extra ground clearance so the pumpkin wouldn't get hung up so often
- winch (wasn't a need but more of a want) which required some bumper modifications

Most of my efforts have been maintenance and reliability related...
- fan clutch
- power steering pump
- bearings and seals
- brake shoes
- rear diff fluid change
- oil changes
- low pressure fuel pump
- fuel filter
- IAC
- ball joints

I've had a great time wheeling this thing even without a lot of mods and having a reliable toy vehicle has been rewarding.

I feel like the next upgrade for me is a locker because the open differential seems to be the biggest weak point thus far. Suspension and ground clearance might be the next area of improvement.

If I was building a rock crawler or a mudder I'd probably be disappointed but for what I want it to be and what I want to spend I'm happy with the results.


In terms of parts O'Reilly, Auto Zone, and Napa will have most of what you need in stock. Sometimes I've had to order some pieces but its been rare.
 

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Definitely get it out there and figure out what its stock capabilities really are before you go modifying anything.

That being said, here are common upgrades for wheeling trucks that you can think about as you go along.

1. LIFT! Just about everybody lifts a trail vehicle to get that extra inch or two, but you don't need to do anything crazy. A shackle flip in the rear and a coil spring swap up front will give you an extra couple of inches to fit some slightly bigger tires on. Even stock, you can fit 33" tires with minimal trouble.

2. Winch. Cause sometimes, you just need to pull something. I don't wheel at all right now and I still have a winch. Mainly because I'm building mine up for when my enlistment is up in a few years and I go back to the back woods of Indiana. You can get a custom bumper mounted or do what I did and mount it behind the stock bumper.

3. Proper gear. As in equipment you take with you. That seems to be something a everyone else overlooked. When you go out wheeling take some tow straps/ropes, both kinetic and static, shackles for the straps, low profile bottle jack, and some basic hand tools, to include wrenches, screwdrivers and hammers. You never know when you'll need towed or need to tow or when something will just let go and break on you. Being able to get out of trouble is always a big plus.

4. Tow points. This is in relation to the above for proper gear, but you'll want some good points to attach a tow rope to, both front and rear, for recovery purposes. You really don't want to rip a bumper off by tying off around it. A lot of us use tow loops off of Ford Expeditions and the like, which you can pick up at any junkyard.

5. Lighting. You never know when you'll be out late after dark and being able to see is important. Stock headlights are pretty good, provided they're clear. You can simply clean up and polish the stock lenses, or order new ones. Up to you. But you can also add extra lights to see that much farther. LED lights are popular these days.

6. Knowledge. Learn how your rig works. Shifting into 4WD, turning on lights, engine management.... All are important for long term ownership. The most important tools in your toolbox should be repair manuals. I have both a Haynes manual for the common stuff, and a dealership manual for the more complex stuff. I highly recommend both. Feel free to look through the build forum on here and see what everyone else has done.

In the end, what you do to your rig depends entirely upon what you want your rig to do for you.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks guys this has been very helpful. Here I was thinking I would need to upgrade something before I hit the trails but since I don't I believe me and my buddy, who unfortunately is a jeep guy, will head up to truck haven in the next week or so.
 
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